The 2013 NFL draft was the first in history that did not include a running back among its first round selections. This was for a variety of reasons, first of all the running back position has been devalued in recent years by NFL general managers as teams have begun to turn to more of a back by committee approach, the number of three down backs in the league has shrunk significantly in the past few seasons. Another reason was that the 2013 crop of runners was viewed by many experts as lacking of a first round caliber performer.
A couple months before the draft took place, there was one back who was viewed as perhaps having first round ability, Alabama's Eddie Lacy, especially coming off his sensational performance in both the SEC Championship Game against Georgia and the National Championship Game when he positively gashed the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Based on on the field performance there was little doubt Lacy was worthy of a first round selection. But then the draft process got underway, the annual period of time between the collegiate season and the NFL Draft in which teams weigh, measure, poke, and prod the incoming NFL class and inexplicably seem to do their best to put out of their mind what they saw on the actual playing field and predict the success of incoming football players based on just about everything you can imagine, with the exception of PLAYING FOOTBALL.
It's the annual period of over thinking, paralysis by analysis that every personnel department swears they will avoid but inexplicably fall victim to each and every year. Perhaps no draft is a better example of this phenomenon then 2013. Scouts and general managers saw Eddie Lacy sit out the scouting combine with an ankle issue. He then showed up for an individual workout that he was still physically unprepared but that NFL personnel people insisted on seeing, soft bodied and seemingly out of shape. Lacy was predictably unimpressive as he attempted to run and jump his way into the hearts of NFL GM's and as a result he slipped out of the first round conversation.
Never mind that he just got finished blowing through two of the top college defenses in the country on his way to leading Alabama to a National Championship, after all, whoever heard of judging a football prospect based on what he does on the football field?
Why waste your time watching film when there's cone drills and Wonderlic exam... 40-yard dashes and broad jumps?
As a result, the first round of the draft came and went without Lacy, or any other running backs name being called. Then came the second round, and backs such as North Carolina's Giovani Bernard, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and Wisconsin's Montee Ball were all taken ahead of the BCS MVP. It wasn't until the 61st pick, three picks before the end of round two, that Packers GM Ted Thompson tabbed Lacy as his second round pick. Thompson had actually traded down to this pick only a little while earlier, some believe it was in an effort to avoid Lacy being available to him. In post draft interviews Thompson all but admitted he was just about forced to take Lacy when that 61st pick came up. He passed on him and passed on him, but with a glaring need in the Green Bay backfield, he simply could pass on Lacy no more.
California wide receiver Keenan Allen experienced a draft fate similar to Lacy's. When the draft process began, Allen was atop just about every list of the top talent available at the wide receiver position, but this ranking was based mostly on his on the field performance.
What fool judges football players on THAT?
Unfortunately during the predraft process, Allen was hobbled by a knee injury that ended his 2012 season prematurely. As a result, Allen too was unable to perform during the NFL Scouting combine in Indianapolis and began to see his star fade with every 4.3 40 run by men in shorts on the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium. Once Allen was finally healed enough to run a 40 of his own only weeks before the draft he was only able to manage a time in the 4.6's. Once again, all the spectacular catches he made at Cal were forgotten, all the precision routes, all the jaw-dropping plays he made in pads and cleats were seemingly erased by what he did in shorts and sneakers. Allen went from the top receiver in the draft, and a sure fire first round pick, to a third round pick, the 76th overall by the San Diego Chargers.
About one year ago today, Eddie Lacy and Keenan Allen were considered sure-fire first round picks. If the two juniors decided to make themselves eligible, they would no doubt hear there names on the draft's opening evening, after all Lacy was the best draft eligible running back, and Allen was the best draft eligible receiver. Then, off came the helmets pads and cleats and on came the shorts and sneakers. A few months later, Lacy was the fourth running back taken and Allen the eighth wide receiver.
Then came the 2013 NFL season.
As the 2013 season winds down, it appears as though Eddie Lacy is the best running back in the 2013 class, and Keenan Allen is the best wide receiver, just as they were a year ago.
Ain't it funny how much, and how little, things can change in the course of a year.
Here's a look at the top five offensive rookies in 2013.